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County Council approves funding for new transfer station and recycling center upgrades

$25 million in financing for facilities at Cockeysville site

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

12:39 PM EST, November 8, 2011

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The County Council has authorized $25 million in financing for a pair of waste-management projects in Cockeysville that, proponents say, could save the county money now, and actually make money in the long run.

"If it's going to save the amount of money that they say it will, it will be a win-win for not only the county but the citizens as well," said Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. at the council's Nov. 7 meeting.

The bill will fund two projects at the Texas Acceptance Facility in Cockeysville, with $13 million going toward equipping the existing facility for a single-stream operation to accommodate the county's recycled goods, while another $12 million will build a new transfer station for the county's garbage.

In February 2010, the county switched from dual-stream recycling, which requires residents to separate paper products from other recyclable materials, to single-stream recycling, which allows all materials to mixed for collection. Since then, the county has not handled its own recycled materials.

At the council's work session last week, Director of Budget and Finance Keith Dorsey said the county could make as much as $200,000 per month if it processes its own single-stream recycling, rather than shipping it elsewhere.

The county's resource recovery center, built in 1974 and used for 13 years as a dual stream facility, was made obsolete by the single-stream collection. The goal of the new expenditure is to make it a single-stream site.

"Right now, we're paying in the area of $56 to $58 a ton to dispose of a ton of trash, whereas when we recycle it, it has revenue value," said Mike Beichler, acting bureau chief for solid waste management for the county.

Officials said revenue from selling recycled materials has its own benefits, as would the facility's capacity to handle other jurisdiction's recyclable materials. Under current plans, all of the county's recycling will be processed in one shift at the facility, leaving a second shift should the county decide to take in recyclables from elsewhere.

"We'd be handling this operation ourselves, and we're doing this so that we can not only handle our own tonnage, but an additional segment of tonnage," said County Administrative Officer Fred Homan.

Ultimately, any material that goes through the facility could be sold, with the market paying between $100 and $105 for every ton of recyclables, depending on the materials.

Charles Reighart, recycling and waste prevention manager for the county, said taxpayers will also save by having materials processed in the county.

"If we had to ship this material somewhere else to be processed like we do now, the first thing that's saved is the transportation and shipping costs," he said. "When we do it in house, that's $20 to $30 per ton that's saved."

But ultimately, the project can be more successful with increased participation from residents.

"There's a choice that every resident in the county is making right now," Reighart said. "The more residents that join the bandwagon for recycling, the more sense this is going to make."

Meanwhile, Beichler said the garbage facility will be "totally self-funded," financed by the commercial waste haulers that the county transfers trash for.

The county is using a conditional purchase agreement to raise money for the project, which means it's borrowing the $25 million from lenders using equipment and renovated building as collateral, county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said.

Homan had said the county's normal bond sale schedule, which is used to fund other similar projects, might not fit the project's timeline.

Last week he said that if the council approved the bill, "We will be doing this deal 45 days from the executive's signature."

Marks introduces sign law amendment; ethics bill introduction delayed

Also Monday, 5th District Councilman David Marks introduced a bill that amends his recently-passed legislation allowing rooftop signage and changeable copy signs on certain buildings in downtown Towson.

The bill, which was written at the request of the developers of Towson City Center, faced opposition from the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

Since then, however, Marks said he had a cordial meeting with the GTCCA, who he called his "partners in revitalizing downtown Towson." The revision sets new height limits on the signs that would be allowed.

The council was also slated to introduce County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's amendments to the county's ethics laws, but decided to hold off so the council members could get a better look at the bill.

"(The bill) is 53 pages long and they just got it Friday," Olszweski said after the meeting. "They wanted to do their due diligence on it."

"The county executive has set a commendable tone with this bill, but this affects more than just council members," Marks said.